The concept of sustainability has become a well known and prominent aspect of society today and thankfully so. For, if we [as a global community] are to keep up this high level of production, and consumption then- before we know it- we will be left drowning in the consequent cess-pit of waste produced. This image often comes to mind when discussing the concept of sustainable living and the new-age mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle”, yet today I would like to tell you about a whole other aspect of sustainable living this is; the use of second hand buildings.

Second hand buildings can loosely be defined as public spaces which have been abandoned and are no longer in operation for their original purpose. These are found far and wide, in all shapes and sizes, yet the idea to reuse these old buildings- without necessarily changing the facade, rather simply utilising the space within- provides an effective means to revitalise these hulking giants scaring the Earth’s horizon.

Through the usage of second hand buildings as temporary facilities to host events, establish store-fronts, or even exhibit independent talents (for example: art galleries, or musical stages) we really are maximising the potential of what we have already achieved. The fact that we are able to create such large buildings, and facilities, is incredible and speaks wonders for society as a whole. Ultimately we have become a species with the breath-taking abilities of achieving above our own perceived potential- we are left in the shadows of our own creations, yet simultaneously the proud designers of world changing monuments.

These creations are incredible, and have become a near vital component of 21st century life yet; when we forget the beauty of that which has been built, when our desire to constantly strive for bigger and better creations- neglecting what we have in favour of newer, shinier models, we become blinded by our own ability to manipulate and shape nature, thus forgetting our own mortality, our humanness. We are not immortal beings, and many of our creations will outlive ourselves- this statement is nothing less than fact, so why has our culture adopted a mindset of treating our property as temporary stepping stones towards a greater finish line?

This futile mindset of perpetually destroying and rebuilding the facilities around us, this reshaping of our landscape is doing little but leading our world to destruction. If there is any hope of preserving our planet, we must begin to conserve our resources, we must begin to utilise what we have, and we must recognise our own mortality – despite our near inconceivable potential.

These past two days, we here at EMIS were lucky enough to receive workshops from an organisation that has recognised these faults in the consumerist culture we are submersed into and has vowed to change these. This organisation is called ZwischenZeitZentrale (ZZZ) and is based out of Bremen- Germany. The efforts of this bottom-up organisation are truly astonishing and have undoubtedly contributed to the growing value placed on sustainability today.

Organisations like ZZZ allow us as a society to see that sustainability can be address in innumerable ways, and that each of us (individually or collectively) have the power to evoke positive changes into the world as we know it.

The usage of second hand housing is more than just a means to reuse what has already been built; it is a great leap forward to a future of conservation and preservation. A future in which our possessions are treated with value and our Earth is not just treated as a resource to expend and then abandon.

Daniel, a representative (and founder) of ZZZ said, when discussing his own role within the organisation and the effect that his work has had on society within Bremen:

“I’m an architect, but I’m actually an un-architect. I don’t build spaces; I build communities”

We can all strive towards this vision of a sustainable future, every action counts and after seeing how powerful we can become as individuals – imagine the strength we could posses if we united through a collective vision to preserve our globe.

There is no argument more persuasive than the preservation of human life, so let’s work together to achieve this aim – our goals of sustainability are not unattainable and, one step at a time, together we will reach them.

Written by Sofia Arthurs-Schoppe
Edited by Lavinia Gavrilovici